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Blogathon 2009 – TransLinked, the other white meat

Blogathon 2009 Vancouver for Vancouver Public Space NetworkThis blog post is part of Blogathon 2009, in which I am blogging for 24 hours straight in order to raise money for the Vancouver Public Space Network, an entirely volunteer-run organization who do advocacy and education on the public realm in my home of Vancouver, British Columbia. Please consider supporting by sponsoring me with a pledge, leaving a comment or contacting me to contribute a guest post.

About a month ago, I was asked what my plans were for my transit-musings blog, TransLinked. I’m still not entirely clear what those plans are, so I took the fifth on that question and answered along the lines of, that the project is too new for me to know. To some extent, that’s still true, but over the course of the Blogathon, I’ve also come to remember something that I noted during my Honours research which I feel is important for me to remember now.

When I was reading about public consultations in the UK, there was an observation made about the true impact of the input of the public in the course of those sessions. In an off-the-cuff statement, it was stated that the public consultation process may amount more to a form of education for the public, who learn to adopt the language of planning professionals, rather than an opportunity for the public to really have a role in shaping outcomes.

This is on my mind, of course, because I’m on the cusp of becoming one of those planning professionals myself. I remember, when I started my internship in Toronto, one of the members on my team (who eventually became somewhat of a mentor) said that my perspective, as a new member of the company and the team, was a good and important thing to preserve, because it meant I could notice things that had long become standard practice for everyone else.

This is how I feel about TransLinked: that it is preserving, in some ways, my thoughts before I shift to start using the conceptual shorthand of planning language. In some ways, I’ve probably already started, but likely in a very infinitesimal way compared to what’s to come. As a user-centered design advocate, it’s always felt important to me that I keep that ability to articulate instead of rationalize close. Even as I have already started to do it, when speaking to people about why certain things about the system are the way they are, it’s hard to get away from the fact that I have an idea as to why.

So I’ll keep TransLinked around, because I think planning is the sort of large and complicated undertaking that can really wear a person down, and fighting for incremental changes can really take the wind out of one’s sails for seeing the big picture; and for me, the big picture is how things are looking like in situations far from my own. It’s been a lot of fun to read what other people write on Tumblr about transit, especially since the Tumblr-using crowd is very different from the Skyscraper Forum-using crowd (which I will never be able to connect with because we are separated by technology; I am mentally unable to tolerate phpBB any longer), who are different from the transit-blogging crowd and the Planetizen crowd. They all have their perspectives on transit, however, as well as practices around community building. These groups, varying in size and volume, form an ecosystem of who talks about and thinks about transit, and what potential contributions they might make to a participatory process.

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